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Crudo by Pascal Lorange found its way to the top of my list for San Diego Restaurant Week. I have higher expectations when a restaurant brands itself with a chef, especially if their name appears in the name or tagline! Every aspect and little detail matters including the decor, ambiance, service, and of course the food and drinks. It didn't hurt that their SDRW lunch menu was being offered for only $20 including dessert! Can't. Resist. Crudo.
Dennis and I took a drive along the 56 freeway and arrived at The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch. This plaza was brand spanking new (at least for us) and we found the restaurant on the northeast side next to Crunch Fitness gym. The easiest parking was the lot in front of the gym and luckily new years resolution gym bodies hadn't filled every spot. Our late lunch timing could have helped as well!
The space was elegant in white, silver and light wood tones. There was an open spread of seating both inside and out, plus a center bar area for drinks. We were sitting in these papasan chairs during the meal and thinking... if I relax too far back, I might bump my neighbor behind me! *excuse us*
The SDRW Lunch Menu - so many options which sounded unbelievably delicious. After careful deliberation, we ordered from our waitress Julie.
Crab Cake - mango cilantro salsa, tomato ricotta horseradish emulsion
We upgraded the app for an additional $5 because Dennis loves his crab cakes! This densely packed patty was meaty and fresh with a panko thin crust. It was great to dip in the creamy sauce, which was somewhat curry-like and citrusy for me. The sweeter mango salsa gave it a nice contrast of flavors. We thought it was very good but my favorite is still at The Marine Room.
Salmon Tartar - pesto, shallot, capers, harrissa, lemon, herbs
I often order tartar style items yet only later remember that Dennis isn't much of a 'raw' meat or fish person. I guess I'm secretly satisfying my cravings by getting MORE FOR ME. Here, the salmon was salted just right and the side sauce gave it a litle more zest plus a hint of spiciness.
Salmon Burger - cucumber pickles, capers, herbs, tomato, arugula, horseradish tapenade
On the outside, the patty was cleanly seared while the middle was cooked to a juicy well done. The seasoning was ample though slightly salty. You can see a whole chunk of red onion sticking out which added to the flavor. It was drizzled with oil olive with a trail visible on the plate. The buttery toasted bun held it together while the tapenade kept it creamy. I loved having this light fare (both in calories and in weight) as compared to a typical beef burger.
Coconut Salmon - coconut milk, soy, carrots, pearl onions, spinach, cilantro lime juice, mild bombay spice, rice
This was our top dish here and apparently one of their most popular items too! You can visually see that the fish is more on the rare pink side, which I loved (so Dennis let me have most of it). The curry sauce was light and enjoyable, giving us umami with a little tomato tart to it. We expected the carrots and other vegetables to be more "stewed" but they were firmer in this implementation. Surprisingly, even the rice tasted delicious on its own, as if it had been zested with some seasoning as well! I asked but was told it was a S E C R E T.
Shrimp Penne Mediterraneo - tomato concassé, tarragon, garlic, basil harissa oil (subbed with shrimp instead of calamari)
We originally ordered the Calamari Penne Mediterraneo but mid-way through apps, Julie asked if they could sub shrimp since they were out of the other ingredient. We declined and chose a new entree (coconut salmon) instead. Later, we were surprised when the pasta with subbed shrimp still appeared. Julie said it had already been made and would go to waste otherwise.
We took a test bite. The flavor of this dish was centered around tomatoes, making it more wet than saucy. The shrimps were cooked fine but aren't really Dennis's thing unless they are grilled with seasoning. I admit at the time I was relieved we had subbed the decadent coconut salmon entree. We'll have to explore a little more Mediterranean flavors to get improve our base on it.
Pot de Creme
The meal ended with a personal sized dessert in a chilled glass. Inside, the delicate mousse could be mixed with the fluffier upper cream layers and a crunch came from the nonsweet cocoa nibs on top. It was the perfect ratio of sweetness for me. I ate every bite.
Food coma was hitting and these chairs were too comfortable... Thinking about the lunch, we may have overdone it with the salmon items! Still, we were pleased overall with the quality and inspirational flavors of each item we tasted. The environment was relaxed and not noisy on this partly cloudy day. It was nice to see a family friendly environment as there were several families with kids that day. Our server Julie was attentive and took care of the little things like the menu slipup and providing us refills and everything else.
As we were leaving, I noticed they had kumquats growing in their planters! There were also other smaller fruits and herbs growing in other planters. If they are using these, I'd say that is super fresh! The food fits the realm of healthy and hearty fare and is worth checking out. I was seriously tempted by the branzino (to compare with the one from Parc), which I'll save for next time. Expectatations met. Thanks mastermind Chef Pascal!
CRUDO by Pascal Lorange
5965 Village Way
San Diego CA 92130